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The difference between handling flung dung in the battlefield versus from behind the keyboard

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Deepak Chopra once replied to a barb that he is full of dung: “But shit recycles as life !”

Without taking away from Dr. Chopra my praise for his reply, he replied from the distance of space and time from the Twitter attacker. Dr. Chopra’s calmness, optimism, and lack of rancor in his reply certainly is an inspiration for my responding calmly, optimistically, compassionately, and in command when anyone throws dung my way when I am in the courthouse battlefield with my client at my side. However, in the battlefield, we do not have the luxury that we do online of simply pressing the delete key.

Dr. Chopra’s foregoing Twitter reply is an important alternative for me to consider to my recent reply to a courthouse sheriff’s deputy/bailiff last month who said after I would not give into his pressure to decide whether my client and I were going to proceed with a felony preliminary hearing (the deputy urged that “a different judge and prosecutor are ready right now to do the hearing”) — because the parties were still negotiating what became a great settlement at a later date — “I don’t know where you are from, but you are a jerk.” It might have been better for me just to have replied “Sorry for your misimpression of me. I will let the judge and prosecutor know myself when I am ready to proceed, after talking with my client about the settlement offer I just now received.”  Instead, wanting to put a stop to this second interruption by courthouse personnel to my critical attorney-client discussion behind a closed witness room door, and to keep my client on even footing with me, I declared “That badge gives you no authority to speak with me that way.” He insisted he would have said the same thing without the badge, and I got my desired result of no further interruptions.

After we got our hearing continued by mutual agreement, I said to the deputy “Deputy, I am sorry if I offended you. I look forward to turning a new leaf with you one day.” The deputy seemed stunned that I would offer an olive branch, and seemed to force a smile as an alternative to ignoring me in the face of the observing prosecutor and a few others in the courtroom. I offered the olive branch to the deputy after I had already accomplished my hearing continuance. Doing so at that time was not weakness, and was partially calculated to express my unflappability.

Numerous times in front of my clients, various judges, prosecutors, and even courthouse personnel will say and do things that might put a wedge in my client’s mind between me and my client. Deepak’s reply might work from the reflective and calm setting on his computer keyboard, but being mindful, calm and compassionate is all the more challenged when such wedge threats are thrown at the attorney-client relationship. I can try to be as compassionate as I want  — and certainly should feel no anger –to a dog who is trying to bite my jugular vein, but if I cannot get away from or deflate the dog’s threat, I will do what I need to neutralize the dog, even if that means my harming the dog in the process. As opposed to dealing with the attacking dog, in defending my clients, of course, the only harm I will inflict on others is of the non-violent kind.

In response to my recounting with some colleagues my foregoing experience with the deputy sheriff, one lawyer aptly replied “Compassion and wisdom take many forms. Manjushri carries a sword.” A Manjushri website describes his sword as follows: “Manjushri is often depicted with his right hand holding a double-edged flaming sword and his left hand holding a lotus flower on which rests the Prajnaparamita (Great Wisdom) Sutra. He is often seen riding a lion. The Prajnaparamita Sutra on the lotus flower symbolizes wisdom as pure as lotus. The sword represents the sharpness of wisdom that [sic] to cut through illusion. The lion is called the king of a hundred animals, and this symbolizes the stern majesty of wisdom.”

As with all my discussions of dealing with obstacles and efforts to persuade, an essential ingredient is to remember that persuasion begins as an inside job.